Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday Fun Stuff--Thank God I don't live in Denver!

I found this story off ABC News:

DENVER Dec 29, 2006 (AP)— The second major snow storm in a week pounded Colorado on Friday, burying the foothills under another 2 feet of snow, shutting down highways and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights at the Denver airport.

The storm stretched across the Rocky Mountains into the western Plains, where the National Weather Service warned that the gusting wind could whip up blinding whiteouts.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens again declared a statewide disaster, putting the National Guard on standby as areas west of Denver got 28 inches of snow Thursday and early Friday. In the city, more than a foot of snow had fallen by morning and another foot was expected.

United Airlines and Frontier Airlines, the largest carriers at Denver International Airport, canceled 513 flights starting Thursday through Friday morning, trimming their schedules to ease congestion from weather delays.

While last week's blizzard dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in about 24 hours, making it impossible for airport and highway plows to keep up, snow from the new storm was expected to stretch over about three days.

The metro area's light rail trains, buses and public transit all planned to run on their regular schedules Friday. Maintenance crews covered Denver streets with deicer, but offices still closed early and residents stocked up on groceries. Many residential streets never cleared after the first storm were buried again.

Denver is getting pounded by these storms over the past couple of weeks. It was bad enough for the Christmas holiday travelers to get to their destination through Denver, but it would also appear that the New Year's travelers are going to have the same problem. And Oh My--Does it look cold in Denver! See for yourself with these news pics through Yahoo:

John Brazzell cuts through a park on his way to work in Denver, Friday Dec. 29, 2006. Residents are digging out from the second major snowstorm in a week to hit the interior West. (AP Photo/Andrew Otto)

Melissa Mong takes her huskies and Newfoundland, right, for a walk in the snow in downtown Denver early Friday morning Dec. 29, 2006. (AP Photo/Bill Ross)

A United Airlines jet is deiced at Denver International Airport Friday, Dec. 29, 2006, in Denver. The second major snow storm in a week pounded Colorado on Friday, burying the foothills under another 2 feet of snow, shutting down highways and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights at the Denver airport. (AP Photo/Will Powers)

Parked cars are once again covered with snow as the second major snowstorm in a month hits Denver, Thursday Dec. 28. 2006. (AP Photo/Bill Ross)

Snow transforms a northeast Denver school playground into a winter wonderland on Thursday evening Dec. 28. 2006. A winter storm is expected to dump up to 18 inches of snow on the Denver area overnight and prompted Gov. Bill Owens to again declare a statewide disaster emergency, just a week after a pre-Christmas blizzard shut the airport for more than two days. (AP Photo/Bill Ross)

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and the rest of the reindeer display is covered with snow in front of the City/County Building in downtown Denver on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, as a winter storm enveloped the interior West. After a blizzard dumped two feet or more of snow on the interior West last week, another storm has taken aim on the region packing high winds and heavy snows for residents already weary of winter. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Under blue skies and freshly groomed snow, Ben Somrak, dressed in seasonal clothing as Santa, flies through the air with his skis, in the Super Half Pipe at Crested Butte Mountain Resort ski area, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006, Crested Butte, Colo. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)

Eleven-year-old Lucas Luna, front, builds a man made of snow while waiting for a bus after shopping with his mother, Paula Leek, back left, and father, Daniel Luna, in lower downtown Denver on Friday, Dec. 22, 2006. More than two feet or of snow was dropped on some parts of Colorado before the blizzard moved out of the interior West on Thursday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Eric Moffitt struggles to clear snow from around his vehicles marooned in a parking lot in a residential neighborhood in west Denver on Friday, Dec. 22, 2006. Some mountain areas got more than 3 feet (90 centimeters) of snow, and up to 25 inches (63.5 centimeters) fell in the Denver metropolitan area. Bus and train service was shut down. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq

When I first heard that Gerald Ford died yesterday, I'm not sure what I could have said that hasn't already been said through the thousands of blogs here. Ford was a moderate conservative who took over the White House under the worst of circumstances with Richard Nixon resigning, the Vietnam War tearing the country apart, and inflation starting to ravage the country. Ford's legacy was the single act of pardoning Richard Nixon for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, as a means to heal the country of this crisis. That is understandable.

Now we get this Washington Post story:

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

In a conversation that veered between the current realities of a war in the Middle East and the old complexities of the war in Vietnam whose bitter end he presided over as president, Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.

"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."

The Ford interview -- and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005 -- took place for a future book project, though he said his comments could be published at any time after his death.

If Ford knew that this war was going to be bad for the country, then why didn't he come out and publicly criticize the Bush administration for it? Why did he keep silent, when he knew this would be a disaster for the country? Two of Ford's former White House staffers--Cheney and Rumsfeld--were involved in the beginning on this war. And Ford kept silent on it. Ford may have been a decent president, but he is a failure as a statesman for blindly following this country down the cliff, when he knew better. Republican Party politics before policy--again!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

It is Christmas time! Time for some spiked egg nog, Santa Clause, presents, and good Christmas cheer! Now I could write a nice, long, analytical post regarding the Bush administration’s incompetence in Iraq, but I don’t think my brain can take that—even with the Pete’s Holiday Blend coffee in my system. But I did find something that really instills the true holiday spirit of Christmas for this year. I’m talking about the pre-pilot episode before the pilot episode of South Park’s The Spirit of Christmas.

I’ll admit that I don’t watch South Park that often, but when I do catch it, even I’m struck by the show’s wicked satire and parody of today’s current events. I knew about the first South Park episode Jesus verses Santa, which inspired Comedy Central to develop the short film into a television series. But even I never saw the short animation work Jesus verses Frosty, which caught the interest of Fox TV executive Brian Graden. According to Wikipedi:

In 1992, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, then students at the University of Colorado, made Jesus vs. Frosty, under the "Avenging Conscience Films" moniker. Parker and Stone animated the film using only construction paper, glue, and a very old 8 mm film camera, and premiered the film at the December 1992 student film screening. The movie features four kids who are very similar to the four main characters of South Park, including a character resembling Cartman but called 'Kenny', a hooded boy resembling Kenny, and two other nameless boys resembling Stan and Kyle. The film also includes some classic South Park ingredients, such as an absurd story-line, crude language, graphic violence and a 'moral' at the end.

The story is that the four kids build a snowman and, in the vein of Frosty the Snowman, put a magic silk hat on it to make it come to life. Unfortunately Frosty turns out to be evil and deranged, sprouting huge tentacles and killing the Cartman-resembling boy. This leads one of the boys to be the first to utter the famous line: "Oh my god! Frosty killed Kenny!". The boys go to Santa for help, but it's Frosty in disguise, and he kills the Kenny-resembling boy. The two remaining kids run away, and then find a nativity scene with a baby Jesus, who flies to the evil snowman and kills it by slicing off the magic hat with his halo. After seeing this, one of the two says another known line: "You know, I learned something today". The two kids realize the true meaning of Christmas: presents. So, as a deer nibbles on the Cartman-resembling boy, they go to their homes to find the presents hidden by their parents.

In 1995, Fox executive Brian Graden paid Stone and Parker $2000 to make another animated short as a video Christmas card he could send to friends. In turn, the duo created Jesus vs. Santa. This version of The Spirit of Christmas featured an animation style very similar to South Park, as well as more developed versions of Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny (and a cameo appearance of a girl looking exactly like Wendy Testaburger, sitting on Santa's lap). It largely established the characters as they would be used in South Park. The movie also contains elements which would re-occur in the series, such as Kyle being Jewish and rats eating Kenny's corpse. The film reportedly had a budget of $750, with Parker and Stone keeping the rest of their commission. The making of the short was parodied in the South Park episode "A Very Crappy Christmas". (In terms of the South Park universe, Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman created the film to rejuvenate interest in Christmas, although Kenny's death is the result of him dying in "real life" and Stan dubs over Cartman's voice after he quits the project.)

The story differs significantly from Jesus vs. Frosty. Jesus descends to South Park where he meets the kids. He asks them to take him to the local mall, where he finds Santa. It turns out that Jesus has a bone to pick with "Kringle" - according to Jesus, Santa diminishes the memory of Jesus' birthday with his presents. Santa is aware of the feud, and claims that "this time" they will "finish it". They stand up for a fight (accompanied by sounds and music from Mortal Kombat) and duke it out, accidentally killing various bystanders (including Kenny) in the process. Jesus pins Santa down, and they both ask the boys to help them. Stan hesitates, and wonders: "What Would Brian Boitano do?" (this is later parodied as a song in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut) The figure skater miraculously appears and delivers a speech about how Christmas should be about being good to each other. The boys transmit the message to the fighters, who ashamedly agree and decide to bury the hatchet over an orange smoothie. Just like in Jesus vs. Frosty, the boys again realize the true meaning of Christmas: presents. Kyle remarks that if you're Jewish, you get presents for eight days. The others decide to become Jewish too and, while rats are eating Kenny's corpse, leave the scene.

Graden initially distributed the video to 80 friends in December 1995, one of the friends rumored to be George Clooney. Brian Boitano ended up getting a hold of the tape, and was apparently flattered by his depiction. After months of being passed around on bootleg video and the Internet, the film caught the attention of cable network Comedy Central. The network hired the pair to develop South Park, which premiered in the USA on August 13, 1997.

In 1997, Jesus vs. Santa received a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for best animation.

It is amazing how a Fox television executive such as Graden was willing to pay Stone and Parker $2000 for a short “South Park” animation film that he enjoyed, and wanted to share it with his friends and family, but who failed to realize the potential success this short film could become as a regular television series. Fox already had a successful animation series in The Simpsons. They could have had South Park as well. Unfortunately for Fox, Comedy Central saw the potential of this Graden “Christmas card,” and developed it into the series South Park.

Anyways, that is a little of the history on these two wonderful short films. I found them both through YouTube. So here they are for an early Christmas treat. The first is South Park Episode 0: Jesus verses Frosty. The second is South Park Episode 1: Jesus verses Santa.

South Park Episode 0: Jesus verses Frosty.

South Park Episode 1: Jesus verses Santa.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Romney Prepared To Announce Presidential Bid

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a holiday reception in Manchester, N.H., Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006. Romney will step down from office next month and is considered a possible 2008 presidential candidate. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

It appears that Mitt Romney is jumping into the race for the 2008 White House. This is through CBS4 News in Boston:

(AP) BOSTON Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is poised to announce his campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination in two phases early next month, a top adviser told The Associated Press on Friday.

The Massachusetts chief executive is expected to file paperwork as early as Jan. 2 with the Federal Election Commission, establishing a presidential campaign committee and permitting himself to begin raising money for his race on the first business day of the new year. Romney will leave office on Jan. 4.

As soon as the week of Jan. 8, Romney will hold a ceremony to officially declare his candidacy, said the adviser, a top aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity in advance of the official filing.

The timing is somewhat dependent on when Sen. John McCain of Arizona makes an expected announcement about his own campaign for the GOP nomination, the Romney aide said. McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war who Romney's staff views as their top rival for the nomination, has already formed a presidential exploratory committee but held off making a speech declaring his candidacy.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has also formed an exploratory committee.

So far, we're looking at a three-way Republican race between Romney, McCain, and Giuliani. At this early stage of the race, I'm not sure of what to say, except that Romney is apparently jumping on the Bush administration's bandwagon for supporting the war in Iraq. Consider this from the CBS4 News story:

In Iowa on Wednesday, Romney reiterated his support for President Bush and said a withdrawal from Iraq "would be a mistake." In New Hampshire on Thursday, he deflected conservative concerns about his record on gay marriage and abortion. He said he now describes himself as "firmly pro-life," despite citing his tolerance for abortion rights during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, after researching the embryonic stem cell issue.

So Romney continues to support the Bush administration's war in Iraq, claiming that a withdrawal "would be a mistake." I'd guess that Romney would support an increase in American troops in Iraq, as John McCain has advocated. Even Rudy Giuliani is supporting the Bush administration, where he resigned from the Iraq Study Group commission, calling both an American withdrawal from Iraq a "terrible mistake," while also rejecting the ISG linking of the Iraq war with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All three of these Republican candidates are supporting a Bush administration policy that 7 out of 10 Americans disapprove of. But neither McCain, Giuliani or even Mitt Romney are interested in serving on behalf of the American public's welfare, or for the nation as a whole. Their support for the Bush administration's disastrous policy in Iraq is nothing more than serious ass-kissing to the hard-lined neoconservatives that still control both the Republican Party and the Bush White House. To criticize this administration now could result in a fracture of the Republican Party between the hard-liners who continue to support the war, and whatever centrist or moderate elements that may still exist within the party which would favor some type of American withdrawal from Iraq. Such a fracture within the Republican Party could cost them the White House in 2008--Something that the Republicans will refuse to accept. And so we get this display of unity and support to the president by these three candidates--support for a war that the U.S. has lost.

Rice: Iraq is "worth the investment"

I found this off MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told The Associated Press on Thursday that Iraq is “worth the investment” in American lives and dollars and said the U.S. can still win a conflict that has been more difficult than she expected.

In an interview at the State Department, the nation’s highest-ranking black government official also said the United States is ready to elect a black president.

Rice was asked whether an additional $100 billion the Pentagon wants for the Iraq and Afghan wars might amount to throwing good money after bad in Iraq. President Bush and Congress have already provided more than $500 billion for the two conflicts and worldwide efforts against terrorism, including more than $350 billion for Iraq.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of money,” Rice said. “Along the way there have been plenty of markers that show that this is a country that is worth the investment, because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor you will have a very different kind of Middle East.”

“I know from the point of view of not just the monetary cost but the sacrifice of American lives a lot has been sacrificed for Iraq, a lot has been invested in Iraq,” Rice said.

Bush would not ask for continued sacrifice and spending “if he didn’t believe, and in fact I believe as well, that we can in fact succeed,” Rice said.

Rice said the Bush administration should be remembered for far more than the Iraq war. She ticked off foreign policy commitments and accomplishments including increased aid to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa and a peace deal ending two decades of North-South warfare in Sudan.

I have no words for Rice's "investment" of 3000 American lives and $500 billion of American treasure in Iraq. What have we gotten in return for this "investment?" An ethnic civil war that's raging in Iraq? A broken down military, where soldiers are leaving after being forced into multiple tours, or the broken equipment.

What is our return on this "investment?"

I don't know how many times I've said this, but the war in Iraq is a disaster. It is a failure! This war is a bad investment for the United States--generating incalculable losses for the American people. And yet, here we have Condi Rice continuing the fantasy spin, saying the war is "worth the investment," as we continue to sink more American lives and American treasure in this failure. Rice claims that Iraq will become a "stabilizing factor" which will reshape "very different kind of Middle East." Does Condi Rice even read the newspapers? Iraq has not been stabilizing--but rather de-stabilizing into civil war. And yet, the Bush White House continues their ridiculous spin. It has gotten to the point where Rice claims that the Bush administration should be remembered for more than just the Iraq war, citing such minor accomplishments of fighting the AIDS epidemic in Africa, or talking about a peace deal in the Sudan. What Rice fails to realize is that war in Iraq is the defining policy for the Bush administration. With so much invested into this war--3,000 American dead and $500 billion spent--it is impossible to either downplay this foreign policy failure, or even claim that the Bush administration's other "accomplishments," can make up for this disaster.

And yet, the Bush White House continues spinning.

Friday Fun Stuff--The Madagascar Penguins In A Christmas Caper-2005

Christmas Eve--1800 Hours! The Madagascar Penguins embark on their own short Christmas film for some great humor. The story starts off on Christmas Eve, where the Private slips out of the zoo to find a present for a lonely polar bear. Along the way, he's captured by an old lady, who mistakes him for a dog chew toy. The three remaining penguins, the Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico, embark on a mission to rescue the Private from the old lady's apartment, and her vicious dog Mr. Chew.

The Madagascar Penguins were originally featured in the Disney/Pixar movie Madagascar, where they practically stole the show. It is a new Christmas classic to fill you with great laughs and smiles. And yes, there is even a Christmas message here--The Penguin Credo:

Never bathe in hot oil and Bisquick?

No! It's "Never swim alone."

So here is today's Friday Fun Stuff from YouTube--The Madagascar Penguins in A Christmas Caper:

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rice: Bush will increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq

I found this story off McClatchy's Washington Bureau:

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that President Bush is considering a surge of additional U.S. troops into Iraq to help secure Baghdad - despite strong reservations by some U.S. military leaders and the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

"The president has to decide whether he thinks some adjustments in American troop levels and what American troops would do is necessitated by current circumstances," Rice said.

"Anything he considers will certainly look at what can be done about the security of Baghdad," Rice said, describing sectarian violence in the capital as the main stumbling block to a more peaceful Iraq.

Rice said Bush, who's due to announce his new tactics in early January, wouldn't decide before further consultations with new Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and military commanders.

But a number of active and retired generals already have expressed serious doubts about sending more troops to Iraq, saying there's little likelihood that the 20,000 to 30,000 troops under discussion would make a difference.

We really shouldn't be surprised about this confirmation. The Bush White House and the Joint Chiefs have been in a major fight over this surge of troops, as reported as it has been reported yesterday in this Washington Post story. The Bush administration still doesn't have a strategy as to resolving the war in Iraq. President Bush has rejected the Iraq Study Group's recommendations. Both the Army and National Guard are breaking down due to the war in Iraq--who knows where the Bush administration is going to find the manpower needed to increase the number of American troops in Iraq. And even today, President Bush still believes that an American victory is achievable in Iraq--despite all the contradictions that have come out this past month. Instead of creating a comprehensive strategy for resolving the U.S. war in Iraq with definable, measurable goals, the Bush White House is trying to spin a tactical military decision into a complete strategy. In fact, I would guess that this increase of troops by the Bush White House is really a military decision to support a short-term political and marketing spin goal of showing the American people that the Bush White House is doing something to resolve the Iraq war over the next two years. Then after January 2009, the Bush White House will drop this entire dung-heap on the next incoming administration--whether Democratic or Republican.


Bush: 'Victory in Iraq is Achievable'

Well, how about some more White House spin in the bubble machine! This is from The Washington Post:

President Bush acknowledged today that 2006 has been a disappointing year for U.S. troops and the Iraqi people, as the optimism of a newly elected government in Baghdad gave way to a successful strategy by "the enemies of liberty" to foment sectarian violence. And he warned that "difficult choices and additional sacrifices" lie ahead in 2007.

In a year-end news conference at the White House, Bush also said he is leaning toward increasing the "permanent size" of the Army and Marine Corps to meet the challenges of a long struggle against Islamic extremists. But he said he has not yet made up his mind whether to boost U.S. forces in Iraq in the short term.

Despite his comment yesterday in an interview with The Washington Post that the United States is currently "not winning" in Iraq, he said today that he continues to believe that "victory in Iraq is achievable" and that U.S. forces will eventually prevail.

Talk about the contradictions in spin here! Bush is now contradicting himself daily. First, Bush wants to increase the permanent size of the Army and Marines, but he fails to realize that the Army is not getting the recruits that is needed to generate this increase. In fact, the Army has to lower their standards just to maintain their recruiting goals. I've certainly written plenty of posts on just how bad the Army is breaking down here, here, here, here, here, and here. And I'm sure there are even more articles on the military problems that can be found on the Internet.

But that is not the only contradiction here. In an interview with the Washington Post, Bush actually said that the U.S. was not winning the war in Iraq. Here's the quote through the WaPost interview:

President Bush acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq and said he plans to expand the overall size of the "stressed" U.S. armed forces to meet the challenges of a long-term global struggle against terrorists.

As he searches for a new strategy for Iraq, Bush has now adopted the formula advanced by his top military adviser to describe the situation. "We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. The assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the November elections, declared, "Absolutely, we're winning."

And now you look at today's press conference, Bush is contradicting himself, saying:

Asked why he continues to follow a path of maintaining U.S. forces in Iraq indefinitely against what polls show is the will of most Americans, Bush said, "I am willing to follow a path that leads to victory. . . . Victory in Iraq is achievable. It hadn't happened nearly as quickly as I hoped it would have."

Would you like another contradiction? How about Bush contradicting what the Pentagon has just reported regarding al Qaeda in Iraq. Here is what Bush said today about al Qaeda in Iraq:

Bush said it was important to analyze what has gone wrong in Iraq as he considers options for a new strategy there. He credited a foreign-led radical group affiliated with the al-Qaeda terrorist network with carrying out a "successful" strategy to ignite sectarian strife in Iraq between minority Sunni Muslim Arabs and the country's Shiite Muslim majority.

President Bush isn't even bothering to listen to his Pentagon generals. This is what the Pentagon said yesterday through CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army has replaced al Qaeda in Iraq as "the most dangerous accelerant" of the sectarian violence plaguing Iraq for nearly a year, according to a Pentagon report.

Attacks by Iraqi insurgents and sectarian militias jumped 22 percent from mid-August to mid-November, and Iraqi civilians suffered the bulk of casualties, according to the quarterly report released on Monday.

The average number of attacks reported each week jumped during that period from nearly 800 to almost 1,000, the report said.

The two most prominent militias -- the Mehdi Army and the Badr Organization -- are armed wings of Shiite political parties whose support is crucial to the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The Mehdi Army in particular "exerts significant influence in Baghdad and the southern provinces of Iraq and on the government of Iraq," and fights periodic battles with Badr supporters, according to the report. The Badr Organization is affiliated with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The violence taking place in Iraq is not caused by al Qaeda, or foreign terrorist networks, but rather through the Iraqis themselves--specifically the Mehdi Army and the Badr Organization. This is Shiite Iraqis fighting Sunni Iraqis. Al Qaeda has nothing to do with igniting sectarian strife in Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis--the Iraqis are doing this all by themselves.

Of course, Bush is contradicting the American people as well. Here is what Bush is saying in today's press conference:

[Bush] said he does not believe that "most Americans want us just to get out now," and he warned that "retreat" from Iraq would embolden Islamic extremists, hurt U.S. credibility and "dash the hopes of millions who want to be free." Such a move would also enable radicals to have safe havens from which to plot further attacks on the United States, he said.

Of course, we all know that Bush doesn't bother reading the polls. Here's the December 11, 2006 CBS News poll:

(CBS) Americans believe the war in Iraq is going badly and getting worse, and think it's time for the U.S. either to change its strategy or start getting out, according to a CBS News poll.

Forty-three percent say the U.S. should keep fighting, but with new tactics, while 50 percent say the U.S. should begin to end its involvement altogether. Only 4 percent say the U.S. should keep fighting as it is doing now.

Just 21 percent approve of President Bush's handling of the war, the lowest number he's ever received, and an 8-point drop from just a month ago. Most of that drop has been among Republicans and conservatives. Three-quarters of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling Iraq.

Opposition to the war is now taking on historic proportions, with 62 percent saying it was "a mistake" to send U.S. troops to Iraq — slightly more than told a Gallup Poll in 1973 that it was a mistake to send U.S. forces to Vietnam.

Americans generally agree with the assessment of the Iraq Study Group, which called the situation in Iraq "grave and deteriorating." But fewer than half — 46 percent — think Mr. Bush will seriously consider the bipartisan panel's recommendations; 43 percent think he will not.

Seventy-one percent say the war is going badly, including 39 percent who believe the war is going very badly. Just 25 percent say it's going well. The negative assessment of the war was shared by a majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

Half of all Americans believe the situation in Iraq is getting worse, while fewer than one in 10 think it's getting better.

Only 15 percent of Americans — the lowest number ever — say the U.S. is currently winning the war. And for the first time, a majority (53 percent) believes it's not likely that the U.S. will ultimately succeed.

Of course, I've got the numbers for the December 12, 2006 Washington Post poll, the December 9, 2006 Newsweek poll, and the December 8, 2006 AP-Ipsos Poll. Each of these polls show the same results--a majority of the American public oppose the Bush administration's war in Iraq. They believe that the U.S. is not winning the war. The American public desperately wants a change in course regarding U.S. war in Iraq--mainly by supporting the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. But, we all know that President Bush has tossed the ISG report in the trash.

I'm sure there are even more contradictions in this Bush press conference than what I've found. I have not had a chance to read through the transcripts here. But even with this quick-and-dirty glance at the WaPost story on the Bush press conference, it is just incredible at how the president is living in a fantasyland--contradicting himself daily when compared to even the news stories that have come out this month. What is going to come out of the Bush White House next year--flying pink elephants, elves, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Clause?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pentagon: Militia more dangerous than al Qaeda in Iraq

Well, this is just lovely. From CNN.Com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army has replaced al Qaeda in Iraq as "the most dangerous accelerant" of the sectarian violence plaguing Iraq for nearly a year, according to a Pentagon report.

Attacks by Iraqi insurgents and sectarian militias jumped 22 percent from mid-August to mid-November, and Iraqi civilians suffered the bulk of casualties, according to the quarterly report released on Monday.

The average number of attacks reported each week jumped during that period from nearly 800 to almost 1,000, the report said.

The two most prominent militias -- the Mehdi Army and the Badr Organization -- are armed wings of Shiite political parties whose support is crucial to the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The Mehdi Army in particular "exerts significant influence in Baghdad and the southern provinces of Iraq and on the government of Iraq," and fights periodic battles with Badr supporters, according to the report. The Badr Organization is affiliated with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The Pentagon report comes as Robert Gates takes over as defense secretary to replace Donald Rumsfeld, and as President Bush ponders major changes in the nearly 4-year-old war.

The number of attacks recorded in September and October were the highest on record, the report found, but it provided no specific figures.

Nearly 70 percent of attacks targeted U.S. and allied troops, "but the overwhelming majority of casualties were suffered by Iraqis," the report concluded. (Full story)

On Tuesday, 53 bullet-riddled bodies were found in Baghdad, and another 12 in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, Interior Ministry sources said. Among the dead in Baghdad was Mutashar al-Sudani, a well-known television actor who was kidnapped on Monday, the sources said.

All are believed to be victims of sectarian violence.

It is interesting how this story and the story on the fight between the Pentagon and Bush administration regarding the surge in U.S. troops in Iraq, both came out on the same day. This story on the militias is another confirmation on how Iraq has exploded into an ethnic civil war. An increase in U.S. troops in Iraq will not stop either of these two militias, nor the Sunni insurgents, from continuing the violence against the U.S. occupation, or against each other. We're just going to see more violence coming out of Iraq.

White House and Joint Chiefs in a tittle over a surge of troops in Iraq

Well, this is an interesting surprise. I found this through the Washington Post:

The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.

Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said.

But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.

The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.

Are the Joint Chiefs finally coming to their senses that the Bush administration doesn't have a clue as to what to do regarding the escalating violence and civil war raging in Iraq. The administration has shoved the Iraq Study Group's report in trash bin. Both the regular Army and the National Guard are starting to break down due to the broken equipment and continuous tours in Iraq. And now the Bush administration is considering this surge of troops to Iraq to do--what?

Continuing with the WaPost story:

At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq -- including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias -- without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.

The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

The informal but well-armed Shiite militias, the Joint Chiefs have also warned, may simply melt back into society during a U.S. surge and wait until the troops are withdrawn -- then reemerge and retake the streets of Baghdad and other cities.

In other words, it is a losing strategy. The Shiite militias would love a surge in U.S. troops to move into the Sunni territory to battle the Sunni insurgents. When the surge of U.S. troops pulls out, the Shiite militias move back in to continue killing the Sunnis. We would be doing the dirty work of killing Sunnis, while our own young American soldiers would be killed and wounded--all to the benefit of the Shiite militias, who would sit back and watch the carnage.

And what is the Bush administration saying about all this?

A senior administration official said it is "too simplistic" to say the surge question has broken down into a fight between the White House and the Pentagon, but the official acknowledged that the military has questioned the option. "Of course, military leadership is going to be focused on the mission -- what you're trying to accomplish, the ramifications it would have on broader issues in terms of manpower and strength and all that," the official said.

You've got to love Tony Snow's double-speak here. It is "too simplistic" to say that the surge questions has broken down into a fight between the White House and Pentagon--I guess that means we do have a big fight between the White House and Pentagon here. Since the Bush administration doesn't have a mission for the troops in Iraq, the Pentagon brass are asking the White House questions as to why we are to support another impulsive move of increasing U.S. troops in Iraq for no reason at all, no goals, and even no metrics to determine if this increase of troops can accomplish these non-goals. And do you really expect the Bush administration to consider the ramifications that such an increase would have on the already broken-down Army and National Guard?

At least we are starting to see some dissent coming out against this irresponsible Bush White House. I seriously doubt that this fight between the Pentagon and the Bush administration is going to change the U.S. policy in Iraq. Like it or not, the Bush administration will order an increase of U.S. troops into Iraq. But if this fight between the Pentagon and the Bush administration continues, then it may cause some Democratic congressmen to rethink their own impulsive views regarding such a surge of U.S. troops in Iraq--I'm talking about you Harry Reid!

More to come.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

More military madness--now the Reserves and Guard are breaking down

Is it just me, or are there a number of stories coming out about how the military is now starting to break down? I posted this story on December 15th on how the Army needs to grow by taking control of the Army Reserves and Army National Guard--not to mention the billions of extra dollars needed to repair the equipment that has been used up in Iraq. This December 13th story introduced the Army's desire for full access of the Reserve and Guard forces, so that the Army can continue rotating Reserve and Guard troops with multiple rotations.

Now we have a couple of stories coming out through McClatchy's Washington Bureau. Let's start with the story Reserves, National Guard feel strain of prolonged deployment:

WASHINGTON - The nation's National Guard and Reserve forces are displaying signs of strain after five years of deployments in what has become the biggest active duty mobilization since the Korean War.

More than 500,000 Guard and Reserve troops have served in active duty since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and they've made up nearly half of the force fighting against terrorists and in combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Military leaders, pointing to an upswing in recruiting and retention, describe the nation's reserve force as the most professional and combat seasoned in history, bonded by a keen sense of patriotism.

But at the same time, many Guard units are struggling with chronic equipment shortages and funding problems that threaten their ability to respond to disaster and other emergencies in their home states. Thousands of reservists are serving in patchwork units cobbled together in piecemeal fashion from other units, often with little or no sense of cohesion.

"I think you're seeing the leading edge indicators of strain and fraying the edges," said Arnold L. Punaro, a retired Marine Corps general who chairs a commission looking into a possible overhaul of the Guard and Reserve. "And, yes, they are doing a good job of recruiting and retention, but at what cost and how long can they sustain it?"

The widening concerns over the reserve component come at a time when U.S. military leaders are pressing for even more reinforcements from Guard and Reserves to help ease the pressure on active-duty forces.

The same problems that are affecting the regular Army is also affecting the Army Reserve and National Guard forces--equipment problems, funding shortages, and reservists moving through a patch-work of piecemeal units. What is so ironic is how Army General Peter J. Schoomaker is asking both Congress and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for full access to both the Reserves and Guard troops as a means to bolster the regular Army's own problems--equipment problems, funding shortages, and recruitment problems. It is like trying to put a fire out by pouring gasoline on it. Schoomaker's use of the Reserve and Guard troops to bolster the regular Army is only going to cause the Reserve and Guard forces to break down even faster, and the Army will still be in the same problem of trying to fight a war in Iraq when it doesn't have the manpower and equipment needed.

Continuing with the McClatchy article:

Lt. Gen. David Poythress, the state adjutant general for the Georgia National Guard, said he agreed with Schoomaker that there need to be changes in the Army's structure since it's configured to fight high-intensity, short-duration wars, not the grinding guerrilla conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he expressed concern that the National Guard may be carrying too much of the load.

"You need readily available manpower on both the active and the reserve side," Poythress said. "There is a danger of breaking the Army, but there is an equivalent danger of breaking the Guard. Guardsmen don't sign up to be full-time soldiers. If that's what they wanted, they'd join the active Army."

Reserve advocates are noticing indications that some 30-something junior officers and non-commissioned officers are thinking about pulling the plug on their reserve status in order keep from falling behind on the civilian career ladder.

"They're at a point in their civilian career where they're making their mark," said Lt. Gen. Charles G. Rodriguez of Austin, adjutant general for the Texas National Guard. "Now is the time for them to punch their tickets and do all the hard things in their civilian jobs. If they're not there, they can't punch those tickets."

I would say that the 30-something junior officers and the NCOs are the heart and soul of the Guard and Reserve forces. Many of these guys probably served in the regular Army, and when their enlistment contracts were up, they decided to switch over to the Guard and Reserves to continue polishing their skills, serving their country, or whatever other reasons they may have. What is important to realize is that these guys are the most experienced of the Guard and Reserve troops. They are also starting up the civilian career ladder here. If the regular Army starts forcing them back into serving multiple tours in Iraq through the backdoor draft, you can bet that these guys are going to start pulling out of their reserve status. This may cause a drop in the long-term effectiveness of both the Guard and Reserve forces. And it may already be starting:

Punaro and others also have criticized the Pentagon's mobilization polices, which they say have virtually wrecked unit cohesion in the National Guard and Reserves and left many units scrambling for volunteers to fill the ranks when the time came for them to deploy.

If only the Pentagon generals will learn.

That was just the first story. Now here is the second story I found off McClatchy, titled Official Iraq war costs don't tell the whole story:

WASHINGTON - During a recent visit to a military family center at Fort Hood in Texas, Joyce Raezer was dismayed to find a sign in a stall in the ladies' room. It asked women to clean up because janitorial service had been cut back.

"What message does that send to a family member when they walk into a family center?" asked Raezer, the director of government relations for the National Military Families Association.

At Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, swimming pools closed a month early this fall, and shuttle vans were sharply curtailed in an effort to trim spending. At Fort Sam Houston in Texas, unpaid utility bills exceeded $4 million, and the base reduced mail delivery to cut costs.

Belt-tightening at the bases is only the beginning. As the United States spends about $8 billion a month in Iraq, the military is being forced to cut costs in ways big and small.

Soldiers preparing to ship to Iraq don't have enough equipment to train on because it's been left in Iraq, where it's most needed. Thousands of tanks and other vehicles sit at repair depots waiting to be fixed because funds are short.

At the Red River Army Depot in Texas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in October that at least 6,200 Humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, trucks and ambulances were awaiting repair because of insufficient funds.

There's a virtual graveyard of tanks and fighting vehicles at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama. Depot spokeswoman Joan Gustafson said that the depot expects to repair 1,885 tanks and other armored vehicles during the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. That's up from the 1,169 and 1,035 vehicles repaired in the prior two fiscal years.

Some of the depot's private-sector contractors haven't been able to supply enough parts in time to make all the repairs, she said. The depot is trying to reduce the time it takes to get repair and replacement parts from 120 days to 60 days.

I'll be honest--I don't know what comment I could say here to express the shock and disgust that I see at how our military is being destroyed by this disastrous Iraq war--a war of choice initiated by the Bush administration. When you've got a situation where the Army doesn't have enough funds to deliver to pay for their electric bill, deliver the base mail, or even clean their own frickin' toilets? You've got a once proud military that is now becoming a basket case. And it is not just the lights and toilets here:

More than 73,000 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and with problems such as drug abuse and depression. That's enough people to fill a typical NFL stadium.

Internet blogs written by soldiers or their wives tell of suicide attempts by soldiers haunted by the horror of combat, civilian careers of reservists who've been harmed by deployment and redeployment, and marriages broken by distance and the trauma of war.

"Back-to-back war deployments has changed both of us - to where it's as if a marriage does not exist anymore," wrote a woman calling herself Blackhawk wife on an Iraq war vets Web site. "We just go through the daily steps of life and raising children as best we can."

A mother of a returning soldier posted this: "Since he has been back, he has had 3 DUIs, wrecked his truck, attempted suicide, been diagnosed with PTSD" and is being kicked out of the Army.

I have one question to ask General Peter J. Schoomaker: If you succeed in giving the Army full access to both the Guard and Reserve forces, how many of these Guard and Reserve soldiers will come back home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after serving their own third, fourth, or perhaps even fifth tour? We can already see how the Bush administration takes care of this nations veterans--by pretty much gutting the Veterans Administration budget. And general, what is your response to this cost upon our country:

Nearly one in five soldiers leaving the military after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan has been at least partly disabled as a result of service, according to documents of the Department of Veterans Affairs obtained by a Washington research group.

The number of veterans granted disability compensation, more than 100,000 to date, suggests that taxpayers have only begun to pay the long-term financial cost of the two conflicts. About 567,000 of the 1.5 million American troops who have served so far have been discharged.

“The trend is ominous,” said Paul Sullivan, director of programs for Veterans for America, an advocacy group, and a former V.A. analyst.

Mr. Sullivan said that if the current proportions held up over time, 400,000 returning service members could eventually apply for disability benefits when they retired.


The documents on the current conflicts provide no details on the type of disabilities claimed by veterans. Most were found to be 30 percent disabled or less, and one in 10 recipients was found to be 100 percent disabled. Payments run from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000 a month depending on the severity of the disability.

A separate V.A. health care report shows that the most common treatments sought by recently discharged troops are for musculoskeletal disorders like back pain, followed by mental disorders, notably post traumatic stress disorder. About 30,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have sought treatment for post traumatic stress, which afflicts soldiers who have been under fire or in prolonged danger of attack.


The documents show that 37 percent of active duty veterans have filed for disability compensation, compared with 20 percent of those who served with National Guard or Reserve units. Also, 18 percent of claims filed by Guard and Reserve soldiers are denied, compared with 8 percent of those filed by active duty troops.

The report offered no explanation for the differences, but veterans’ advocates said efforts to explain V.A. procedures might be better for those leaving active duty than those offered to reservists.

“The Guard and reservists may be falling through the cracks at a higher rate,” said Joseph A. Violante, national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. “The V.A. needs to study why there’s a difference.”

So General, even when you take control of the Guards and Reserve troops, not only will you be condemning them to death, disabilities, and PTSD, but they also will not be able to receive veterans benefits that the regular Army soldiers will get. Is this what you want?

A final quote on the war costs from McClatchy:

The length of the Iraq war surpassed that of World War II last month. The costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global fight against terrorism are expected to surpass the $536 billion in inflation-adjusted costs of the Vietnam War by spring. That's more than 10 times the Bush administration's $50 billion prewar estimate.

Through the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, Congress authorized about $436 billion in war spending, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

In October, President Bush signed legislation that tacked on $70 billion, bringing the total to more than $506 billion. That number will rise again once Congress appropriates Iraq stabilization and reconstruction funding.

The armed services, seeking to replace aging equipment and address quality-of-life issues for military families, are believed to be seeking $100 billion to $160 billion in a supplemental spending bill for spring.

If that's approved, war funding - three-quarters of it going to Iraq-related operations - would reach nearly $700 billion. If U.S. troops remain in Iraq through 2010, it will approach $1 trillion.

In January, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz released a study that said the true costs of the Iraq war could exceed $1 trillion and perhaps reach $2 trillion.

"When I saw that figure, I thought it was an exaggeration. I no longer think it's an exaggeration," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Vietnam veteran who's criticized how the war has been fought and funded.

We've lost this war. And now we're going to pay through the nose for this loss in broken men, broken equipment, a broken budget, and a broken military.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Edwards jumping into the '08 race

Well, it appears that John Edwards is now jumping into the 2008 presidential race. This is from MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards intends to enter the 2008 race for the White House, two Democratic officials said Saturday.

Edwards, who represented North Carolina in the Senate for six years, plans to make the campaign announcement late this month from the New Orleans neighborhood hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina last year and slow to recover from the storm.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Edwards’ announcement.


Edwards’ spokesman, David Ginsberg, would not confirm or deny that Edwards planned to announce he would run in 2008.

Ginsberg said Edwards would make an announcement about his future when he is ready.

Word leaked about Edwards’ plans just hours after Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh announced he would not seek the presidency in 2008. Bayh had been a leading candidate in early fundraising and, like Edwards, based much of his appeal on his electability. Bayh and Edwards, friends who went running together daily when they were in the Senate, each won election in Republican-leaning states.

Governor silent on Johnson replacement

Gov. Mike Rounds on Election Day in Sioux Falls, S.D. Mr. Rounds has publicly conveyed his prayers for Senator Tim Johnson, who fell ill. Lara Neel/Argus Leader

This is also on The New York Times:

SIOUX FALLS, S.D., Dec. 15 — In the tornado of talk about Senator Tim Johnson’s political future after his surgery to stem bleeding in the brain, one man has stayed mostly out of sight and mostly silent but for conveying his prayers through spokesmen.

Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican whose duty it would be to appoint a replacement for Mr. Johnson, a Democrat, if that becomes necessary, finds himself in his most unlikely political role yet: the single person, potentially, to decide the partisan split of the United States Senate.

Besieged with questions about whom he might select, Mr. Rounds has declined to address the topic, his aides denouncing the inquiries as premature and beyond impolite and a subject that Mr. Rounds would not have given the first thought to.

Mr. Rounds had no public appearance on Thursday or Friday, instead attending private meetings in Pierre, his aides said. “Our concern is for Senator Johnson’s health,” Mark Johnston, his spokesman, said. “That’s South Dakota.”

Still, even as reports arrived from Washington suggesting that Mr. Johnson’s condition was improving, names and theories were quietly emerging here in the chance, however small, that Mr. Rounds were called on to pick a successor. Might he pick a Democrat, to honor Mr. Johnson’s political leanings? How overwhelming would the pressure from the national Republican Party be to pick a Republican?

“I have to believe there are some private conversations going on about all of this, and that the governor’s office is part of those conversations,” said Robert Burns, a political scientist at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

Rounds is in a very tight, almost no-win situation here. He is a popular governor in South Dakota--the Times say he defeated his Democratic opponent with 61 percent of the vote. The Republicans have been trying to court him into running against Johnson in 2008. If he selects a Republican replacement for Johnson, that is going to anger the Democrats--not just in South Dakota, but also throughout the country. If Rounds has any presidential ambitions in the future, then he can kiss those ambitions away. Even if he has ambitions for the Senate in 2008, he's going to have a hard time trying to explain to the Democrats of the state why he chose a Republican replacement that would switch control of the Senate from the Democrats to the Republicans. If Rounds chooses a Democrat, that choice will certainly anger the Republican base in South Dakota. But will the Republican base in South Dakota be angry enough to not select him for a Republican run against that unnamed Democratic senator in 2008? The question for Rounds isn't whether he chooses a Democrat or Republican replacement for Johnson. The real question is which political party candidate does he choose that will piss off the least amount of people--both in South Dakota, and in the entire country. Because the choice Rounds can make will affect not only his own political career, but also the entire national political agenda for the next two years. We have a nation here that has become so polarized between Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative. The makeup of the Senate shows this razor's edged balance between the two political parties and their ideologies. We're in an unpopular war, started by an unpopular president, who insists on doing things his own way and not the way of the American people. We have a slowing economy, potentially rising inflation, and a huge deficit that may never be paid off. These are enormous problems that are certainly starting to weigh on the American public's minds. If Rounds is forced to make a choice in replacing Johnson, then his choice will affect America within all these issues.

I can't say who Rounds would select for this position.

Senator Showing Weakness After Surgery

This is also off The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 — Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota was showing weakness on his right side on Friday after surgery to relieve bleeding in his brain, his office said, and will remain in the hospital until the swelling in his brain goes down.

“The surgery was considered a success,” the office said in a statement.

Surgeons removed the blood during a procedure late Wednesday and stabilized the bleeding, the statement said, relieving the pressure on the brain.

Mr. Johnson, 59, remains in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital in critical but stable condition.

“Considering his initial presentation, his progress is encouraging,” Dr. Anthony Caputy, the chairman of the hospital’s department of neurosurgery, said in the statement, adding that Mr. Johnson continues to show “signs of responsiveness” to hospital staff and his family.

Mr. Johnson, a Democrat, began to stutter Wednesday while on a conference call with reporters, then walked back to his office, aides said. After being examined by the Capitol physician, he was admitted to George Washington University Hospital with what his office called “the symptoms of a stroke.”

His illness raised the possibility that the Democrats might lose the 51-to-49 majority they are expecting to assume in the Senate that convenes in early January.

I've been somewhat reluctant to talk about this story for the simple fact that I don't know what to say. Government officials become ill, surgery takes place--there is nothing new about that. The big reason for the media's splattering Johnson's illness all over the front pages is simply that if Johnson dies, or is forced to resign from the Senate due to his illness, then South Dakota's Republican governor Mike Rounds may choose a Republican replacement senator, thus taking control of the Senate away from the Democrats and handing it to the Republicans. It has become a huge political battle going on outside of Johnson's hospital room, where speculation, charges, fears, and perhaps even a ghoulish glee abounds. In this polarized electorate, I wonder just how many Americans are secretly wishing for Johnson to die, just so Rounds can appoint a Republican replacement and change control of the Senate to the Republican Party. It is this story, and the endless speculation of the Senate's balance that has taken hold of the media, and the country. And this speculation will continue until Johnson makes a recovery, or ends up dying in office.

Until then, I'm simply waiting and watching.

Bayh is out for the 2008 presidential race

It is not even 2007, and the presidential candidates are already dropping out. This is off The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 — Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, who just two weeks ago took the first steps toward a White House bid in 2008, announced on Saturday that he was quitting the race. He said he had concluded his hopes of winning were too remote to make it worth continuing the battle.

Mr. Bayh’s abrupt withdrawal, which stunned many Democrats, came less than a week after he saw his own visit to New Hampshire overshadowed by the crush of attention surrounding a trip there the same day by Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. Nationally, much of the coverage of the 2008 contest has portrayed the contest, notwithstanding the expanse of the Democratic field, as a two-way race between Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, complicating efforts by lesser-known candidates to hire staff, raise money and get noticed.

“The odds were always going to be very long for a relatively unknown candidate like myself, a little bit like David and Goliath,” Mr. Bayh said in a statement. “And whether there were too many Goliaths or whether I’m just not the right David, the fact remains that at the end of the day, I concluded that due to circumstances beyond our control the odds were longer than I felt I could responsibly pursue. This path — and these long odds — would have required me to be essentially absent from the Senate for the next year instead of working to help the people of my state and the nation.”

The statement was posted on the Web site of The Indianapolis Star, which first disclosed news of Mr. Bayh’s decision in its newspaper on Saturday.

The race is really about Obama and Hillary--which one is going to throw their hat into the ring? In this early stage of the presidential game, neither candidate is willing to make the announcement that they are running for the White House, or that they are not running for the White House. And with all the media attention focused on both Obama and Hillary, it is going to be next to impossible for the lesser-known candidates to get their own message out, or to raise money.

It is still very early in the race.

Friday, December 15, 2006

General says Army will need to grow

I found this story off the Washington Post:

Warning that the active-duty Army "will break" under the strain of today's war-zone rotations, the nation's top Army general yesterday called for expanding the force by 7,000 or more soldiers a year and lifting Pentagon restrictions on involuntary call-ups of Army National Guard and Army Reserve troops.

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, issued his most dire assessment yet of the toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the nation's main ground force. At one point, he banged his hand on a House committee-room table, saying the continuation of today's Pentagon policies is "not right."

In particularly blunt testimony, Schoomaker said the Army began the Iraq war "flat-footed" with a $56 billion equipment shortage and 500,000 fewer soldiers than during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Echoing the warnings from the post-Vietnam War era, when Gen. Edward C. Meyer, then the Army chief of staff, decried the "hollow Army," Schoomaker said it is critical to make changes now to shore up the force for what he called a long and dangerous war.

Wait a minute--the Army began the Iraq war "flat-footed" with 500,000 fewer soldiers and a $56 billion equipment shortage than they had in the 1991 Persian Gulf War? Did the Pentagon even know about this when President Bush and his PNAC neocons started pushing for their invasion of Iraq? Did former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld even listen to his military commanders? Why is this story even a major crisis for the military, where the Army "will break" under the strain of the Iraqi occupation? Consider this February 25, 2003 USA Today story:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Army's top general said Tuesday a military occupying force for a postwar Iraq could total several hundred thousand soldiers.

Iraq is "a piece of geography that's fairly significant," Gen. Eric K. Shinseki said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he said any postwar occupying force would have to be big enough to maintain safety in a country with "ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

In response to questioning by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the committee, Shinseki said he couldn't give specific numbers of the size of an occupation force but would rely on the recommendations of commanders in the region.

"How about a range?" said Levin.

"I would say that what's been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers," the general said. "Assistance from friends and allies would be helpful."

Apparently Shinseki knew that it would take several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq, and he made that view known to Levin back in February 2003--you can bet that Shinseki also told Rumsfeld of the need for a large occupation force even before the invasion began. And Rumsfeld rejected both Shinseki's views and testimony to Congress. According to this June 4, 2003 CNN story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon's civilian leadership underestimated the number of troops needed to occupy Iraq after ousting Saddam Hussein, former Army Secretary Thomas White said Tuesday.

"I just think we mis-estimated it, and I think the sooner we come to that realization and set ourselves up for the long term, the better off we will be," White told CNN in a telephone interview.


Gen. Eric Shinseki, the outgoing Army chief of staff, told Congress in February that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would be needed to govern Iraq after a war.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discounted that estimate within days.

"Any idea that it's several hundred thousand over any sustained period is simply not the case," he said.

And it is not just Rumsfeld, but the entire neocon establishment that rejected the need for a large occupation force inside Iraq. Also in the CNN story:

Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, were leading advocates of the U.S. attack on Iraq. In congressional testimony last month, Wolfowitz said Shinseki's estimate was still overstated.

"I would say 'several hundred thousand' is 300,000 or more, and I don't think we're close to that," he said.

White said Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld can't come to grips with the idea that more troops are needed.

"Obviously the size of force [was] based upon a whole series of assumptions, and I just think we got the assumptions wrong," White said.

So why am I bringing up this old hash? Because in the Pentagon's wisdom, they are bringing up their own incompetence as a means to support the Army's interest of taking control of both the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, so that the Army can ship those soldiers out to Iraq. Let's go back to the current WaPost article:

"The Army is incapable of generating and sustaining the required forces to wage the global war on terror . . . without its components -- active, Guard and reserve -- surging together," Schoomaker said in testimony before the congressionally created Commission on the National Guard and Reserves.

The burden on the Army's 507,000 active-duty soldiers -- who now spend more time at war than at home -- is simply too great, he said. "At this pace, without recurrent access to the reserve components, through remobilization, we will break the active component," he said, drawing murmurs around the hearing room.

Schoomaker's highly public appeal for more troops and reserve call-ups appeared to be part of an Army campaign to lobby incoming Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who is to be sworn in Monday, to approve the desired policy changes as well as a significant increase in the Army budget.

You have to marvel at how the military--and especially the Army--is playing this game. Not only did they not have enough men to do the job in Iraq, but now they are using Rumsfeld's, and the Bush administration's, own incompetence as proof that the Army can't succeed in its mission in Iraq, and that the Army must have more troops and money to pour down this black hole of Iraq--where they will still continue to fail. And it is not just the Army that is playing this game of “Give us more troops to send to Iraq." Arizona senator John McCain wants to send 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq. And interestingly enough, there is an argument going on within the Pentagon, where military officers are also calling for an increase in U.S. troops in Iraq. I found this December 4, 2006 Wall Street Journal article:

As demands mount to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, a growing number of senior military officials are arguing that the only way to salvage the situation is to add more U.S. forces and more U.S. money.

Outside the military, most of the debate is focused on a U.S. troop withdrawal. But inside the Pentagon, the recent dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has given some new life to arguments by military officers who say the U.S. must pour more troops and money into the country to expand the Iraqi army -- the one institution in Iraq that has shown some promise -- and stabilize the capital.

Right now there are about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Though there are no firm plans for an increase, some military officials said that as many as 30,000 more troops could be needed. Most of the U.S. troops would be focused on patrolling Baghdad and training the Iraqi Army.


The push among the uniformed military to do more in Iraq is being driven, in part, by a small study group working for Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The group's work, which is classified, lays out several options for Iraq. But it seems to favor a temporary increase in U.S. forces as part of a broader effort to build the Iraqi Army, says an officer familiar with its work.

The officers' recommendations largely run counter to Mr. Rumsfeld's own ideas, which were revealed in a leaked memorandum written by Mr. Rumsfeld in early November and published yesterday by the New York Times. In the memo Mr. Rumsfeld suggests a pulling back of U.S. forces to bigger bases and possible withdrawals of U.S. troops "so the Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."

Most military officers, however, seem to believe that a pullback of U.S. forces would only trigger more violence and make political compromise in the country impossible. These officers argue that 20,000 U.S. troops are needed to bring order to Baghdad. Another 10,000 U.S. soldiers would also be needed to work as advisers with the Iraqi Army, which currently numbers about 134,000 troops and might need to double in size.

Military officials who advocate such an approach warn that it could take years and hundreds of billions of dollars. But many of these officers bristle at the idea that it is too hard or impossible.

I have to wonder if there is a connection between this "small study group working for Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," and the Army's latest dire reports of how it "will break" under the strain of the current war in Iraq, and the Army's desire to take "full access" of both the Army National Guard and Reserve forces. If Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Congress approve of the Army's request to take "full access" of the Army National Guard and Reserve troops, then this will give Pace's small study group the manpower needed to implement their plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq for their Baghdad patrol and advisory operations with the Iraqi Army.

It is an interesting approach for resolving the Iraq war. This approach gives the Pentagon their own way to achieve "victory" in Iraq. The Pentagon can sell this plan to the Bush administration, which is desperately searching for a way out of Iraq. In fact, the Wall Street Journal article says that the Bush White House is open to the idea of temporarily increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq as a means of stabilizing the country. I wouldn't be surprised if President Bush comes out in support with this plan once he makes his big Iraq speech in January. And finally, the Pentagon can sell this plan to a Democratic Congress using the doom-and-gloom scenario of the Army breaking under the strain of the Iraq war--we must support the troops! There is just one question I'd like to leave you with regarding this new plan....

Will the Iraqis accept this?

Friday Fun Stuff--Mr. Heat Miser, Mr. Snow Miser!

This might just bring back some memories for the Gen-Xers. I found these two songs on YouTube. They are Mr. Heat Miser, and Mr. Snow Miser. They are both from the Rankin-Bass Christmas special The Year Without a Santa Clause. Now Rankin-Bass are the same production people who brought you the stop-motion specials Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Clause is Coming to Town. I had almost forgotten about Heat Miser and Snow Miser, and was re-introduced to them through a Daily Kos commentary thread. What is really funny is that I remembered the ragtime tune for the two songs, but forgot the special. And that is a common criticism when you read through the IMDB movie reviews of the special.

So here they are--Mr. Heat Miser and Mr. Snow Miser:

Mr. Heat Miser

Mr. Snow Miser

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny

I've been feeling a little sick today, so it has been bed and hot tea for me. I've been lightly checking the blogs, and I found this wonderful gem from Shakespeare's Sister. This is just totally funny! The original source is from YouTube.

So I present to you The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Some more info on Bush's polluting the environment with leaded gas

This is off the December 8, 2006 Los Angeles Times:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday streamlined the way it updates regulations for the nation's worst air pollutants, a move that drew immediate charges that officials are trying to quash scientific review to benefit industry at the expense of public health.

The changes, some of which closely mirror requests by the American Petroleum Institute and Battery Council International industry groups, include shortening what is now an exhaustive scientific review, and replacing recommendations prepared by career scientists and reviewed by independent advisors with a "policy paper" crafted by senior White House appointees at the agency.


"EPA is bringing air rule-making into the 21st century … with a timely and transparent process that uses the most up-to-date science," said Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock, who approved the new procedures. "Everyone has found the current process is inefficient, and current delays are unacceptable."


[The] announcement came two days after the agency announced it would study whether lead should be taken off the list of the most serious pollutants.

It also follows controversial decisions this fall by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson in which critics said he had ignored scientific counsel on tightening standards for deadly soot.

For 30 years under the Clean Air Act, agency scientists have reviewed and recommended health standards for six major air pollutants: ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and lead.

The standards, which limit amounts of the pollutants that can be released into the air, are designed to protect children, the elderly and other "sensitive" populations, and curtail damage to animals, crops, vegetation, views and buildings.

Congress members, environmentalists and past EPA staff from Republican and Democratic administrations swiftly condemned this week's actions, saying they could undermine public health protections.

"EPA is downgrading the role of its own career experts and making sure that political appointees are running the show from the beginning," said Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch in Washington. "It is little wonder that the oil industry pushed for exactly this sort of 'reform' to the process."

O'Donnell called the lead assessment "a political gift to the lead-smelting lobby…. It could threaten thousands of children who breathe toxic lead fumes."

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), incoming chairman of the Government Reform Committee, said in a statement Thursday, "EPA's efforts to roll back … the most fundamental provisions in the Clean Air Act make no sense, and fly in the face of last month's elections."

It makes perfect sense for the Bush administration. First, you pull out the scientific data and recommendations and replace it with political hack written by White House flunkies--all in the interest of giving corporate interests, such as the American Petroleum Institute and Battery Council International, the legal right to pollute indiscriminately. The oil and gas industry gave over $25 million in campaign contributions in the 2004 presidential elections. Eighty percent of those contributions went to the Republicans, with President Bush receiving over $2.6 million in campaign contributions. I don't have any information as to whether the Battery Council International gave any political campaign contributions to President Bush. Continuing with the LA Times article:

The Chicago-based Battery Council International asked the EPA in July to delete lead from the list of "criteria" pollutants, which are subject to tough health standards. The council said other existing regulations would preserve protection.

Emissions of lead have declined by 96% since its use in gasoline was banned. Agency staff this year found only two sites in the country where lead emissions still exceeded limits, both near smelting facilities used as part of battery manufacturing.

Recent studies have suggested that lead is more harmful than previously thought. But EPA staffers said in a draft paper this week that they would assess whether tough health standards could be revoked.

The ban on leaded gasoline will continue no matter what, agency staff said, as will other rules.


The American Petroleum Institute this year wrote the EPA saying the long-established staff paper on each key pollutant should not be a science-based document but "is a policy document, and as such should have input from senior EPA management."

On Thursday, the agency eliminated the staff papers and replaced them with a separate science assessment that will no longer include policy recommendations, and a "policy assessment" to be prepared by senior EPA managers.

Neither the battery council nor the petroleum institute returned phone calls and e-mails requesting comment.

It is interesting how the Battery Council International wants the lead standards lowered near the two lead smelting plants. In fact, the Battery Council's entire goal for increasing the amount of lead in gasoline is to take the two lead smelting facilities off the list where lead emissions exceeds the EPA limits. It is an end-run around a health and environmental cost that the Battery Council International doesn't want to pay.

And of course, you've got to love the American Petroleum Institute’s ideas on policy papers--take the science out of the staff papers, while playing up these "policy assessment" papers "prepared by senior EPA managers." Senior EPA managers--not scientists! EPA managers who are appointed by the Bush administration, and will certainly not take the time to read scientific data on these pollutants, but rather will make their decisions on policy recommendations bought and paid for by corporate interests.

Sickening--isn't it?